So, moving on from the last post, I got to the stage where I could not pull the bar at all, even to do skill work. Something had to change and for the first time in my sporting career, I was thinking of my long term health and basic lifestyle in the following ten years.
I decided to try something different and I went to a chiropractor. He told me that my SI joint was out of place and that this explained my back pain and the subsequent issues. He urged me to take ten days off training completely and I actually did it. I had not taken off ten days from training since I was 18 years old and even though I was very restless and even more annoying than usual, I enjoyed the time off training. My back felt great and I decided to go back and try again. I kept things very light the first two sessions and I pushed it a bit a few days later. It was fine at the time but I was in bits the following few days; I tightened up badly and I was back to square one again. I had around 6 sessions or so and they gave me some relief without sorting me out.
By this stage, I was very frustrated and had not been able to train properly for around three or four weeks. After some careful deliberating, I decided to give my back a break and leave off weightlifting for a few months. I had played a few games of social rugby for fun but my ankle got worse and I had to stop that also. My shoulder was still bandied and the soft tissue work I was getting was only giving me comfort for a few days, rather than sorting out the underlying issues.
Around this time, I had entered an arrangement with John Connor, the co-owner of the Irish Strength Institute alongside Eoin Lacey. I would coach him weightlifting and he would give me soft tissue treatments and help me recover from my injuries. We only had three sessions together before he left for 9 weeks teaching and travelling. John gives me ART treatments or he uses other soft tissue protocols and I found these very helpful. While John was gone, I also went to a physical therapist called Paul Hevey who made a good bit of ground with my shoulder and ankle, giving me the first major signs of progress I had seen in a long, long time.
In December, I asked Eoin Lacey if he would hook me up with a strength program while John was away. They have different kinds of strength and conditioning protocols than I would be used to and would be heavily influenced by Charles Poliquin, a Candian strength coach. I knew it would be good for me to experience a different mode of training while taking a break from weightlifting and Eoin was gracious enough to help. After giving me a basic testing protocol, he said my trunk strength and erector strength were both appalling in relative terms. I did the program he gave me for five weeks with 3 or 4 sessions a week. I was not used to the higher reps, the short rest periods or the super-setted programming, but it was really nice to do something different. He put in some Clean grip pulls from pins into the program to keep up my strength. I enjoyed doing them but when I tried to do it again a few days later, even pulling the bar and 60kg hurt. I kept going hoping it was just stiffness, but just before the working sets, I decided to leave it. Once again, it was a few days after pulling that really hurt my back. It also seemed like it was changing in nature also, going from the musculature to the actual joints and spine. Not good.
I obviously left out any pulling whatsoever from the rest of my programming for the next two months aside from very light weightlifting movements that I would do when coaching some of the other lads in ISI. I kept in touch with weightlifting by doing the skill drills with the bar and 30/40kg. Doing some of these drills from the hang felt great while it kept me in touch with basic technique and the positions.
In the second week of January, I started coaching John again and he changed my general strength program. Once again, we used dumbell split squats except this time the back foot was elevated by 4 inches and I did one a quarter reps where I would go to the bottom, back up a quarter of the way, back down and up fully; that was one rep. These opened up my hip flexors while the unilateral work was great for strengthening my legs while not loading my back. A win win situation for all. I was also doing single arm work when pressing and using a neutral grip which took pressure off my shoulder. It felt really nice to able to press again. I had decided that I would begin weightlifting in the middle of February after I finished my second program as well as one of my busiest work periods. I had gotten stronger in the program I was given and I had continued to get healthier. I worked up to being able to lift twice a week in the classical lifts and each session, I would keep the weights really light and gradually increase the volume. I even did a 5x5 in the Clean and Jerk with 50kg! 5 Cleans and 2 Jerks were very tiring even though the weight was light. None of this hurt and I knew it would stand to me when I started training the lifts again.
I had asked the legend that is Tommy Hayden to coach me when I returned lifting again. He wrote me a program based off conservative numbers of 110/140. The next post focuses on my return to the platform. I think I need an Adrian in my life to give me a moment like this. If you don't understand the context of the scene, I hope you are suitably embarrassed and humbled.
This is an ever so slight exaggeration of how I felt, but you get the message: